A Christmas sermon. Or: a review of ‘Black Mirror’ Season 1 Episode 2

This episode of the dark utopian technology-critical BBC series showcases the absurdity of capitalism in its essence: it doesn’t matter what you want and who you are – if people like one of your talents, and you practice them, you will become famous. And might have shit loads of money.

The story goes like this: in a future world, people have ‘credits’ like in a computer game. There are fast people which are the bottom class of society. Then there are poor fellows that need to go on spin bikes the whole day (like in the Hamsterrad, the German version of the rat race) in order to ‘earn’ credits. Eating unhealthy consumes a lot of credits, also if you want to skip ads when watching (which is forced! there’s a sensor to check if your eyes are open) anything anywhere, you need to pay with credits.

Then there is this ‘xyzzy got talent’ show. You need to buy a ticket for 15,000,000 credits (which seems a lot) and then you are admitted but might need to wait for over a week until you will eventually get your chance.

One day, the protagonist hears a voice singing while washing his hands in a unisex washroom and find it’s the new girl he saw in the elevator and the spinning club since a couple of days.
She does origami and folds fabulous little penguins from the lunch wrap paper. They start talking and the protagonist offers to gift her a ticket to the talent show. She evidently hesitates but finally accepts it. They go to the show, hold hands for the first time in the elevator, she sings with a stunning voice but since there were enough brilliant singers, they ask her to go into the adult entertainment industry. She cries but accepts.Our protagonist is devastated and since he has almost no credits left, he cannot skip the new ads with his girl in the porn industry. He goes mad, smashing the screens that surround his bed and he finds a big glass splinter.

This event sparks a dedication in him: he does everything to reach 15,000,000 credits again with very hard work and saving credits wherever possible. Once on stage, he does a short dance performance and then pulls out the glass splinter, which he holds to his neck. If anyone would move closer, he’d kill himself. What he wants? He wants people to listen. Then he sums up the state of the world perfectly: the absurdity of spinning to earn credits to spend on things no one needs – everything is artificial. Even the food. Nothing is real. Nothing is authentic. Only feelings. Love. Pain. Anger. Hate.

Then the unimaginable usual happens: they like his voice and his authentic words and say they can imagine him hosting a vlog – twice a week.
The episode ends with his old spinning group where one guy watches our protagonist’s vlog. Then we see the new ‘home’ of our protagonist which shows a sterile but big apartment with a nice artificial view and orange juice – or something that looks like orange juice.
Now what do I think about the show? Well. It’s a gloomy image of a future world. But actually it’s a ‘mirror’ of our world today. The rat race. Buying things that usually we don’t really need. But society, group pressure etc tell us we want it. Or it’s cool to have it. Or whatever. So basically we see our reality in a little futuristic-looking and exaggerated way. Then the summary of capitalism.

So far so good. But then? What is the right thing to do? Find your talent and start making money with it?
Depends on what you want. A lot of people want money. Or the things or ‘freedom’ that comes along with money.

Let’s check an example: A friend of mine that I got to know while playing computer games excessively during teen years, has been writing songs and rapping since more than 20 years now. He mastered his technique, had to overcome massive blows in life and is still struggling.What does he want? Get signed by a label in order to get a steady income and support by professionals? Or does he just want to write songs and share his thoughts with people? Or maybe shake up people’s minds and make them realise what ‘living’, ‘humility’, ‘moral’ and justice mean? Maybe even change the world?

So I guess once again the most important question is: what do YOU want in life? Money? No, what would you buy with the money? Cars? Drugs? Sex? A garden? A well in Africa? Or do you want to be famous? A celebrity that everyone knows and loves. Or hates. With everything that goes along with it? Or do you just want to live your live, have enough but not too much? Maybe a family, maybe not? Kids? An own house? All is possible.

Or do you want to change the world? Then it’s a little more difficult. And it depends on timing, luck and current societal movements.
But whatever your inner desire: you have an impact. On yourself. On your environment: the people you interact with on a daily basis. Doesn’t matter whether it’s eye contact and some friendly words with the lady at the counter in the supermarket. Or whether it’s being there for people who are near. Who are important to you.
Because one thing technology can never (really?) provide: the feeling that you care for someone. That someone cares for you. Is there for you. Listens. Talks. Laughs. Cries.
Some call it love. Whatever. You get it.

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